Event business booms at Best Place

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:14 pm

Since opening a new event space at Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery last August, owner Jim Haertel and his team have hosted close to 150 weddings on its grounds, on top of 150 other events.

The new venue, known as The Great Hall, joined Blue Ribbon Hall, a separate 2,000-square-foot event space at Best Place, that also caters to public and private events.

Steep demand for Blue Ribbon Hall drove Haertel to open another event space at Best Place. With help from five contractors, renovation of The Great Hall, which is about 4,000 square feet, was completed from April to August last year, in time for Haertel’s son’s summer wedding.

Haertel poured nearly $1 million into the renovation project, partially financed with $400,000 in state and federal historic tax credits.

Best Place, located at 901 W. Juneau Ave. in Milwaukee, formerly housed Pabst Brewing Co.’s corporate offices, and the segment that now holds The Great Hall encompasses Capt. Frederick Pabst’s former office.
In converting the corporate office space into a welcoming event venue, Haertel opened up the interior by knocking down the walls of an old conference room and worked to merge the building’s historic elements with contemporary touches.
In addition to weddings, the new space also welcomes anniversary celebrations, birthday parties, public theater, live music and corporate events. The venue, which can hold 250 people, served as an entertainment space for Northwestern Mutual executives during the company’s annual meeting in Milwaukee in July, Haertel said.
Among the original architectural features Haertel has maintained are 1880-era stained glass, an 1880 skylight and crown molding. He also added reclaimed wood from the brewhouse and introduced new lighting, colorful light effects, a customized Best Place medallion, gold walls, and a wooden bar transported from Michigan.
Couples who book The Great Hall for their wedding can use the space for both their ceremony and reception. Below The Great Hall’s main gathering space sits an old German beer hall-themed room with a second bar. The basement level is also outfitted with a bridal suite where bridal parties can prepare and a kitchen where catering companies can pull together meals.
Most couples who celebrate their nuptials at The Great Hall come from the greater Milwaukee area, as Haertel and his staff keep their marketing to the Best Place website, social media and word of mouth.
To Haertel, the transformed space is “unique,” “magical,” and “memorable.”
What makes The Great Hall unique is its “authenticity,” according to Haertel.

The Great Hall features an open room with stained glass and a skylight that are original to the building.

“We’re not like Disney World, creating facades,” Haertel said. “We’re peeling away facades and exposing the bones, the history, the authenticity. This is the real deal.”
In competing against other event venues in Milwaukee, Haertel said he gets his fair share of business and does not feel pressure to book more events.
If anything, he is happy to share his success, particularly with the Brewhouse Inn & Suites and Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub, both of which are also located on the former brewery site.
The separate ventures complement one another, according to Haertel, as patrons can enjoy the hotel and restaurant before or after attending an event in one of his halls or taking one of his historic tours.
With his eye to the future, Haertel said he has fulfilled most of his dreams for his property.
He is still determined to convert the second and third floors of Best Place into a beer-themed bed and breakfast, but does not have a timeline hammered out for that project.
For now, he intends to enjoy Best Place’s new event space and relax after packing such a significant renovation project into a matter of months.
“I’m just going to enjoy being in the eye of the hurricane for a while, just enjoying the calm before I take on the other side, which I know is coming,” Haertel said.
“But I sort of welcome and relish that, too,” he added.

Haertel raises a glass behind the bar he transported from Michigan.

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